Edited by Klaus Armingeon and Michelle Beyeler
8. France: moving reluctantly in the OECD’s direction Marina Serré and Bruno Palier INSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL CONTEXT The French welfare state reflects for the most part the Bismarckian tradition: in France, most benefits are earnings-related, entitlement is conditional upon a record of contribution, and the contributions of both employers and employees constitute the system’s primary source of financing. The French social welfare system expanded from 1945 to the 1980s, and saw the development of a particular and cohesive set of non-state agencies that fall under the rubric la Sécurité sociale. The system is extremely fragmented. It is divided into a number of different sectors covering different policy domains: health care, old age, family and unemployment.1 The system is also segmented into different schemes covering different occupational groups (for example, there are more than 600 different pension schemes: for those employed in industry and trade, for the self-employed, for civil servants, for public firms’ salaried workers, for farmers and so on). Instead of a unified system covering the entire population (as found in universalistic regimes), the system has developed via the addition of specific, particularistic and autonomous schemes for different occupational groups. During the system’s expansion from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, many professions defended their specific benefits and resisted integration into the Régime général, the most important regime covering salaried workers from trade and industry. The French welfare state therefore deserves the ‘corporatist-conservative’ label given to it by Esping-Andersen (1990). Since the mid-1970s, each...
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